by Emma Polen | features editor
April 7, 2022
The thrilling sights, sounds and smells of local vendors filled the top floors of a Downtown cement parking garage on Saturday.
The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership-sponsored Car Bazaar is back for its second annual event, and this year it will run every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through September at the Forbes-Smithfield Garage (400 Cherry Way) – rain or shine – with exceptions for holiday weekends and April 30, for Pittsburgh Marathon events.
Last week’s Car Bazaar featured a variety of vendors selling homemade products, well-loved knicknacks and vintage clothing. The sounds of bartering were accompanied by local bands The Evergreens and Miss Freddye. The smell of old clothing, cars and clothing mixed with the welcoming aroma of fresh brunch food from The Speckled Egg and cooking grilled cheeses from The Pickled Chef.
The first week of the parking garage flea market happened on the fifth and sixth floors of the Forbes-Smithfield Garage. Food and entertainment were located on the fifth floor, but the sixth floor was a more pleasant venue, as it is the top floor of the garage and offered a warmer environment and gave vendors’ wares better lighting.
Carrying cash was a must at the Bazaar. Some vendors accepted Venmo, but cash was useful when inevitably a small seller’s vintage item caught the buyers’ eye.
Frank Leonardi has been collecting old house wares for 40 years. His collection of vintage kitchen items, toys and clothing were picked from his large garage storage which he finds at state, house and yard sales.
He enjoys coming to vendor fairs like the Car Bazaar that bring people together.
“The flea market is people speaking and looking at each other,” he said. “It’s old-school communication.”
Freshman music major Rachel Lewandowski was pleased with her finds — she scored Abba and Phantom of the Opera vinyls, some vintage skirts and a pastel necklace from the ’60s.
“They were all really friendly,” Lewandowski said. The vinyl vendors were helpful with finding specific records in their enormous collections, she said.
“It was nice to be able to walk down [from Duquesne],” Lewandowski said. “I haven’t been able to go to a flea market [since starting college].”
The Car Bazaar was extremely accessible for all people: walkers, wheelchair users, bikers, drivers and even roller skaters.
Jessica Halsband found a creative way to stay warm during the cold parking garage morning and wind by zipping between booths with her roller skates.
Halsband is a vendor herself, selling a variety of homemade soaps, bandanas and cloth baskets. Her business, Ritual Soapworks, is available online at her website (ritualsoapworks.com).
She appreciated how easy it was to move around.
“Maybe other people will bring their skates [next time],” she said.
Halsband also called the event European-inspired and “so Pittsburgh.”
In fact, the Car Bazaar was influenced by the traditional “British car boot sale,” according to Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership’s official page for the event.
A car’s “boot” is the same as the trunk. Some vendors decided to use their car trunks to their advantage.
Ricardo Solis, a Costa Rican artist, showed off a brand new life-size demon mask he had hand-made from recycled cardboard in his car trunk. He encouraged Bazaar browsers to try on the mask for a free photo opp.
Solis’s Costa Rica Art business sold recycled cardboard cards, magnets and keychains. Solis came to the Bazaar last year as well.
“I love it so I kept coming back,” he said. “The [Pittsburgh] art scene is really welcoming,” he said.
Solis is originally from Costa Rica, and he came to Pittsburgh in 2015. Since then, he has combined his passions for graphic design and upcycling.
Solis’ products can be found at local markets and online at Etsy.com.
Environmental impact was the motivation for Em Collins’ Emtree Bath and Body beauty products, as well.
“My goal is to get rid of plastic in your bathroom,” she said.
Her 3-year-old business has recently made its way to Pittsburgh, and she looks forward to coming back to the Car Bazaar for the remainder of the 2022 season. Her one-of-a-kind soaps, shampoos and beard oils can be purchased on her website (emtreebathandbody.com).